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Tuned In: Situation no comedy in this year's Emmy Awards

Monday, September 22, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Deadly dull and hideously unfunny, the "55th Annual Emmy Awards" was billed as a celebration of 55 years of comedy, but few in the Shrine Auditorium audience appeared to laugh -- precisely because there was so little to laugh at.

More on the Emmys

List of winners

More from the Associated Press


It's no secret that TV's scripted comedies have been in a slump lately with few breakout hits and a whole lot of stinkers. That malaise carried over to the Emmy telecast, where comedians performed short stand-up routines every few minutes.

When Darrell Hammond ("Saturday Night Live") came on stage to imitate Arnold Schwarzenegger at a campaign stop during the California recall, you could hear a pin drop -- but no guffaws.

Wanda Sykes was particularly grating. It was embarrassing to see her trying to get stars in the audience to do the Electric Slide with her. It only got worse when "Six Feet Under" actor Peter Krause began dancing with her -- and he didn't do the Electric Slide.

"I'm George Lopez. The Lopez you're not sick of," the sitcom star said as he began his shtick by slamming Jennifer Lopez. Don't be so sure, George, don't be so sure.

Damon Wayans embarrassed himself by saying actress nominees weren't alive when the Emmys began, "except for Doris Roberts, who was 53 at the time." That's just what network executives in the audience need to hear -- nasty jabs at the few elderly actors able to get jobs working in television.

Once again, it was up to the brilliant Jon Stewart (Comedy Central's "The Daily Show") to bring the funny when others failed. Stewart wanted to recognize the TV news business "on becoming us -- mindless ratings whores," and he preceded to rip cable news for its attempts to woo viewers through "fear and speculation."

Former Pittsburgher Dennis Miller introduced a funny "Look Back" clip reel that included "those special moments of victory and defeat from the world of sports," represented by footage of former Pittsburgh Pirates player Randall Simon clobbering a college student dressed in a sausage costume. Then Miller showed a clip from "The Anna Nicole Show" of her dog molesting a stuffed animal. His sarcastic response: "It truly is the golden age of television." Clearly.

It's no surprise a moment from last month's more lively MTV Video Music Awards -- Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera kissing Madonna -- got parodied at the Emmys (Brad Garrett gave Garry Shandling a big wet kiss on the lips). Sensational and contrived-to-shock though it was, the VMAs are now setting the pace and the Emmys are left to react.

Too bad the Emmys can't react to what's new in television, nominating and awarding series and actors who have been recognized enough in the past and ignoring the new and truly innovative.

Here's what I could muster in the way of our annual awards:

Best California recall joke: "Seriously, you guys are thinking about Schwarzenegger?" Jon Stewart asked. "You know, if he stinks, you can't go to the future and send somebody back to stop him. He's ready for that."

Most truthful response: "If I knew you were going to talk to me, I wouldn't have shown up," Larry David ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") said to more-annoying-than-funny roving comedian Wanda Sykes.

Most sincere reaction: Joe Pantoliano won an Emmy for losing his head on "The Sopranos" and his voice cracked throughout his sincere, appreciative acceptance speech.

Best tribute within a tribute: When Bill Cosby received the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award he took the opportunity to remember Pittsburgher Fred Rogers, who died of stomach cancer in February. He recalled riding in January's Tournament of Roses parade with Rogers and Art Linkletter. "I still remember people waving and saying, 'Mister Rogers, welcome to the Neighborhood!' "

Best clarification: Fox's promos have finally begun spilling the beans about the next "Joe Millionaire," promoted as "An International Affair." An announcer says, "First we lied to America, now we're taking on the world." It appears a Texas man will be introduced to foreign women as a millionaire. If it's like the first edition, he's really not wealthy.

Best self-deprecating humor: When "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" won for writing for a variety, music or comedy program, Stewart took to the stage with a group of almost all white men who write for the show. "I've always felt that diversity is the most important part of a writing staff," Stewart cracked. "I don't know if you can tell, Steve has a beard and J.R. isn't Jewish."

You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 . Post questions or comments to under TV Forum.

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